Skip to comments.Myths & Mysteries: The pharaoh's daughter who was the mother of all Scots
Posted on 09/15/2006 2:08:29 PM PDT by martin_fierro
Myths & Mysteries
Thu 14 Sep 2006
The pharaoh's daughter who was the mother of all Scots
"From various writings of ancient chroniclers we deduce that the nation of the Scots is of ancient stock, taking its first beginning from the Greeks and those of the Egyptians." - Walter Bower, Scotichronicon
WALTER Bower wrote his compendium of Scottish history, Scotichronicon, in the 1440s. This sweeping Latin text aimed to set down the history of the Scottish people from the earliest times and by so doing to show what race of people we were.
He referenced his chronicle from ancient texts and oral history. What he recorded was astounding.
According to Bower, the Scottish people were not an amalgam of Picts, Scots and other European peoples, but were in fact Egyptians, who could trace their ancestry directly back to a pharaoh's daughter and her husband, a Greek king.
A replica of an Egyptian mask similar to that found with Tutankhamen.
The queen's name was Scota from where comes the name Scotland. The Greek king was Gaythelos hence Gaelic, and their son was known as Hiber which gives us Hibernia.
Nor was Bower the first to propose such exalted lineage for the Scots. The story goes back further and was even included in The Declaration of Arbroath. This seminal document - written in 1320 by the Barons and noblemen of Scotland - was a letter imploring the Pope to intervene on their behalf during the Wars of Independence. The text refers to "the ancients" who "journeyed from Greater Scythia and the Pillars of Hercules to their home in the west where they still live today".
According to tradition, this royal family was expelled from Egypt during a time of great uprising. They sailed west, settling initially in Spain before travelling to Ireland and then on to the west coast of Scotland. This same race of people eventually battled and triumphed over the Picts to become the Scots the people who united this country.
Few historians have taken the story to be anything more than a verbose bit of Middle Ages origin story-spinning, created by a nation who needed to prove that they were of ancient stock.
"Most political entities [in medieval times] try and trace the origin of their race back into biblical times," says Steve Boardman, lecturer in Scottish history at Edinburgh University. "It was a way of asserting the natural existence of the kingdom of the Scots."
But now a new book, Scota, Egyptian Queen of the Scots, by Ralph Ellis, claims to prove that this origin myth was no made-up story but the actual recording of an Egyptian exodus that did indeed conclude in Scotland.
In tracing the sources that could have influenced the Declaration and Bower's Scotichronicon, he finds that the main British reference was likely to be the eighth-century historian Nennius. But it is in tracing Nennius's sources that Ellis thinks he's found the answer.
He believes that that the originator of the Scota Gaythelos story was an ancient text, The History of Egypt, written in 300BC by an Egypto-Greek historian called Manetho.
Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti worshiping the Sun God, Aten. Picture: Getty Images
Ellis writes: "The possibility that Manetho was the original author of the Scota and Gaythelos story is interesting, because it gives the whole story much greater credence."
Having traced the original source - which was, if not contemporaneous, at least reasonably informed Ellis believes that we can begin to put flesh on the bones of this story.
Using Manetho's text, Ellis establishes that Scota was really Ankhesenamun, daughter of Akhenaton and Nefertiti, and wife of Tutankhamen. He also finds that far from being a Greek king, Gaythelos was a pharaoh himself Aye. Little is known of Aye, although Ellis speculates that he was the father of Tutankhamen and married Ankhesenamun after his son's death. Aye ruled only briefly before religious struggle brought him into conflict with the Egyptian people and he and his court were forced into exile.
Having established the origins of Scota/Ankhesenamun and Gaythelos/Aye, Ellis tracks them as they flee. He contends that the couple took enough ships to bring 1,000 of their followers and plentiful supplies out of Egypt and across the Mediterranean. He finds that they landed first in Spain, where they lived for several generations (their son Hiber giving his name there to Iberia). Four generations after they first settled, the descendents of Scota made their way to Ireland.
Here Ellis refers to Irish stories, but supplements the myth with facts. He points to the number of gold torcs necklaces worn by pharaohs - that have been found in the country. He shows us tombs that were surely built with Egyptian knowledge. He even finds us a mummified head that demonstrates that Scota's people took their method of embalming their dead with them from Egypt halfway across the world.
A detail from an Egyptian frieze showing a boat - perhaps similar to the one that could have been used by Scota and Gaythelos.
From Ireland it was a short hop across the water as later Iberian "Egyptians" seeking a new homeland in Ireland were told to populate Scotland. This colony became so successful that eventually many of the original Irish "Scots" then moved across too.
It all seems exceptionally compelling. Who's to say that just because it's unlikely it isn't actually possible? Well, most historians for one. Boardman says of Ellis's research that to "search for historical figures is just madness. It's never going to work". He concludes, that much as medieval Scots and clearly present-day ones too would like to believe in these ancient roots there isn't much chance that it is true.
"Because of our training we never like to say a definitive no," says Boardman. "But as far as I could, I would say that it is all nonsense."
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The Romans called this pre-Celtic people Pictii, or "Painted," although Claudius' words are proof that (as claimed by many historians), the ancient Picts actually tattooed their bodies with designs. To the non-Roman Celtic world of Scots and Irish and the many tribes of Belgic England and Wales they were known as "Cruithni" by the Irish - or the "People of the Designs."
Tatooing is unknow to other Gaelic civilizations. At that time only peoples from India, Polynesians and Egyptians peacticed tatooing.
In acient times the Orkneys Islands became island fortress with many stone settlements. By the time Rome became a world empire, the Orcadians were recognized by Rome as a sea power. From recent excavations, it seems that these Orcadian people were a slim, swarthy Caucasian race, with long, narrow heads.
Irish legend says that the Picts arrived in Ireland and requested Heremon to assign them a part of the newly-conquered country to settle in, but he refused. Since the Picts had not brought wives with them, the King gave them as wives the widows of the Tuatha de Danaans, whose husbands had been slain in battle by the Spanish, and he sent them with a large party of his own forces to conquer the country to the East then called "Alba," (present day Scotland) with the condition that they and their posterity should be liege to the Kings of Ireland and that all bloodlines should pass through the wives.
This Pictish matrilinear evidence is confirmed by Bede, who wrote that the Pictish succession went through the female line.
In the writings of St. Columba's biographer, Adamnan details the journey of the Irish saint to the court of Bridei near Loch Ness. However, Columba needed interpreters to speak to the king, clear evidence that the Picts did not speak the Celtic language of the Irish and Scots, or at the very least not the Gael version of the Celtic tongue.
Interesting - was this the first instance of the stone of scone being used to declare a king?
Well I believe it. How else did the Scots learn to love that ancient Egyptian delicacy, haggis??
Probably it was used as a projectile, and landed on the predecessor. :')
The Egyptians had the kilt thing nailed.
And all of the English are descended from Pythagoris, since he had all of the Angles.
When I was in Scotland I didn't get around to trying the haggis. Now I know why!
I do find the statement that "the nation of the Scots is of ancient stock" to be silly.
Show me one person who is not "of ancient stock."
Thanks for the ping. But the Egyptians don't have anything like Scotch whiskey.
Neat if true .